What Makes Quality Headphones?
A good set of headphones goes a long way. Whether watching videos on the go, gaming with friends online, or listening to music during work or leisure time, headphones are a vital accessory. Many users are content with an economic pair of earbuds, but for those who want only the best, a model like a Audioquest headphone has high quality appeal. What goes into the best headphones, though? That can vary based on your usage and preferences, but knowing a little more about the products on the market can help you find the right set.
Types of Headphones
Broadly speaking, headphones come in three forms. In-ear monitors (IEMs), which include earbuds, fit within the ear canal. Compact and convenient, these are a go-to option for use while exercising, and a good fit within the ear also provides ambient noise isolation; however, they may lack in audio fidelity. On-ear headphones sit over the outer ears and have better sound quality than IEMs without sacrificing portability, and some users attest to them being more comfortable to wear, though ambient sound may still be present. Finally, over-ear headphones cup around the outer ears and offer the most complete noise isolation, for better or for worse. Some users may find these less comfortable for long listening periods, though.
Not all headphones in a given category are alike; variations in shape and materials can change the listening experience, one way or another. High quality headphones feature a strong range of sounds, based on both the drivers that produce sound from electric signal and the acoustic properties of the material used in the ear cup, bud, etc. Some models feature more active noise-cancelling features in addition to the passive isolation, though at a premium.
Headphones vary in the sound curve as well – what frequencies of sound are emphasized or boosted. A “U”-shaped curve is common, meaning a weaker mid-range in exchange for stronger bass and highs; bass-boosted models can often be found as well. The top-of-the-line manufacturers design for a flatter sound curve, which users may find to have less distortion and a more natural sound. Audioquest headphones, for instance, use biocellulose in the drivers for more controlled performance at high frequencies.
The ideal headphones are also comfortable to wear. The shape of the earcups or earbuds is significant: adapted to the natural contour of the ear, they can be easy to wear and even offer better sound quality, but a poor fit can cause stress and discomfort over a longer period of time. Even so, over-ear headphones can be harder to wear for an extended period, though an open back – or a hidden vent that emulates an open-back design, such as with some Audioquest headphones – can relieve the buildup of pressure and heat. Even the headband and suspension matter; a lightweight design with a softer contact is worn more easily than a bulkier assembly that can feel like a vice on the wearer’s head.
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